I showered and packed my breakfast and coffee for the road (it felt a bit too early to eat) and luckily I was ready to go come 6am. Gwen, er, I mean, Geri (sorry for the inside joke) and Heidi (or is it Heather?) picked me up and away we went. I was quickly brought up to speed on the status of the trip so far. See, three of the members of our group hiked in the day prior, on Wednesday...I'll call them Group I. Wednesday evening (the evening before we left), Geri had received a disturbing series of texts from Group I - "The hike in was terrible, took us over 7 hours to get here, trail is like a maze, we tried to leave you notes and signs, look for them, and follow true north."
True north? We're not professional navigators here people. We don't even have a compass (note to self, buy a compass - and carry a map - both of which Group I had). These texts almost caused Geri to bail. What should have been a three to four hour hike took seven?! Anyway, we were going for it, no turning back now. We are not the type of women to be turned back by a challenge.
Neither Geri or Heidi were on the Yosemite backpacking trip last year so we spent the rest of the drive catching up on, well, everything. I had my cereal and coffee on the drive and got the scoop on the ladies - Geri just graduated from nursing school and Heidi is becoming a Yoga guru. All three of us are launching in our own way so it was fun to share mutual excitement about the future. They also shared some funny stories from backpacking trips that took place before my time.
Of course I told them about my weight loss journey and shocked the heck out of them. Geri in particular made me laugh out loud, "When I saw you I was all, 'great, here's another hard body, look at those legs. I guess I'll still give her a ride anyway'." Of course she tells me this after I told her I haven't always looked like this. We all had a good laugh about that, "I guess I'll still give her a ride." Ha!
Anyway, it must have been around 9am when we arrived at Wright's Lake in the El Dorado National Forest, our jumping off point. The area is just gorgeous and the weather was great, a bit on the warm side with a whisper of a breeze.
We made some final adjustment to our gear, which thankfully resulted in me shaving 5-10 pounds off my pack (which was a whopping 47 pounds when I weighed it the night before) and then hit the trail a few minutes after 10am. (note: Heidi is wearing an SF Nike Marathon shirt - she's done the full marathon four times!)
|Geri, Heidi and myself|
Apparently they'd put a stick on it to hold it down but the stick was gone. They also formed a letter G out of some sticks and somehow thought we'd notice that?! Thank goodness they also opted for a bright orange sticky note. When I asked them how in the heck we were supposed to notice stick-formed letters on the ground their response was, "we told you to look for signs." I couldn't get over how funny that was.
Anyway, I was just happy we saw their notes and we carried on in the right direction. I munched along the way on my trail mix. Trader Joe's has quite the selection of trail mixes but in the end I went with Rainbow's End, a mix of raisins, roasted peanuts, roasted almonds and m&m looking chocolates. Yum. I marveled at how I ate the trail mix as needed, when I felt hunger, and didn't feel any urge to eat more than I needed.
|Rainbow's End Trail Mix|
Along the way we ran into a trail volunteer...John. We picked his brain about the route for a few minutes and he gave us some good tips, "you'll think you're going the wrong way, you'll think you're climbing a drainage area, but keep going" and "the trail will look like a dead-end but keep going anyway." John is 74 years old and has been volunteering out here for 6 years. What a dream to be so active and involved at that stage of life. I had to take a picture with him because I found him so inspiring.
John was out for a six or so night trek all by himself (plus a walkie-talkie thingy). After our chat with John, we carried on and before too long we entered the Desolation Wilderness.
|Geri, Heidi and I - still smiling!|
|Heidi and Geri reaching the top of a tough climb|
We had a rough idea of how far we had to go since I was wearing my Garmin, but weren't 100% sure because of our slight detour at the start. But taking a look back at Wright's Lake, where we started, sure made us feel we'd come a long way.
|Wright's Lake off in the distance|
We were looking hard for trail cairns and using Geri's phone to identify true north. After about a half-hour of searching, and finding no trail cairns or obvious trails, Geri became convinced that what I thought was a drainage must be the trail. So up we went and sure enough, it was the right way. It got quite narrow but was never altogether unpassable (why John's advice hadn't clicked - "the trail will look like a dead-end but keep going anyway" - I don't know). Come to find out, Group I spent one and a half hours at this same spot trying to figure out the way. That made us feel better about our half-hour. The rest of the trek was almost all climbing.
|Geri and Heidi cresting after another tough climb|
|Geri and I rocking the backpacker look|
|Desolation Wilderness is appropriately named.|
It wasn't long before we were hoping to find Lake Gertrude every time we came over a hill. And finally, just before my Garmin struck mile five, bam - there was the lake. I let out a big Woo-hoo! And heard a trio of Woo-hoos in return from Group I. They were SO happy to see us because they'd been worried we'd get lost. Fortunately between the notes and tip to stay north and the tips from John, we avoided the seven-hour nightmare they experienced. We made it in a total of 4 hours, 21 minutes - including all stops and lunch.
|My Garmin route - you can see where we made a wrong turn near the start, and where we walked around a lot around the middle.|
|Elevation profile, Wright's Lake to Gertrude Lake - Desolation Wilderness|
|Full Garmin stats here.|
|The Ringleader (aka Karen) and I - boy was she happy to see us!|
|Angie, Heidi, Erin and I|
|Karen and Geri reviewing where we were.|
|Geri and Erin under the moon|
|The Whole Crew: Heidi, Geri, Angie, Me, Karen and Erin|
Fires are not allowed in Desolation Wilderness (which is so sad because Angie is a master fire builder) and the mosquitoes were pretty brutal being we were right next to the lake so we packed it in early. Up bright and early and making coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. We made a plan to check out Tyler Lake, which was just over the hill according to the map. Angie had an allergic reaction to something so she had to stay at camp. The rest of us packed some snacks and hit the granite.
|You can see Wright's in the bottom left, Gertrude near the top just right of center and Tyler next to that.|
|Erin, Heidi, Karen and Geri next to Tyler Lake|
|Karen scoping out Tyler|
|Karen and Erin taking a dip in Tyler lake|
|Me and Heidi - happy campers!|
|Garlic Naan, Swiss cheese, salami, avocado and hummus- YUM!|
|Camping next to Lake Gertrude. Can you spot our three tents?|
|Love is in the air|
|Mountain Yoga! (L to R) Karen, Me, Geri and Heidi|
|Geri, me, Karen and Heidi|
|It just doesn't get better than this.|
|Follow the signs.|
|Karen popping in for a taste.|
|A sunset chat in Desolation Wilderness|
|I'm all bundled up but it never got really cold at night.|
We hit our tents by about 10pm with a plan to rise early and pack up to avoid trekking out in the heat of the day. Unfortunately I'd got a bit sunburned on my back and whatnot which made sleeping a bit tough. Up around 5:45am making coffee and breakfast and then packing up. Here's one last picture of my wee tent (it's a two-man and my buddy Joy and I slept in it all across Europe in the mid-90's, love this tent), which is perfect for me.
|My home away from home.|
|(L to R) - Karen (who didn't quite beat the camera timer), Erin, Geri, Me, Heidi and Angie|
And Heidi spotted another heart in the granite!
|Follow your heart.|
We caravanned into Placerville to stop at Mel's Diner for lunch. During the drive to lunch I got a little overwhelmed with the beauty of the trip and I actually got teary. The warm air was blowing my hair, Jack Johnson was singing to me and I just felt so full of life and love and gratitude for all the beauty in the world, for my family and kids, for my body and nature and music and food and, and, and - just everything, up to and including the wonderful women I'd been lucky to trek with. I used to carry an extra 90+ pounds everywhere I went, now I'm fortunate enough to temporarily manage 40 or so just for fun.
I'm feeling the need to get up on my soapbox for a minute so bear with me. This is your life, live it. You give up a day of your life in exchange for each 24 hours, make them meaningful, live them fully. Stop putting off your dreams and goals, start grabbing them, start reaching out and taking the future you desire. Don't wait until Monday, start today, now. It's all up to you, don't let bad habits and lack of faith stand in your way, you don't have to see how you'll get there to start, just take the first step and keep taking steps and soon you'll find the journey is the way. Life is rich, nature is free, get out there and soak it in. Thank you for listening.
The beautiful trip was winding down but before that, food! At Mel's we all shared a couple orders of onion rings and I split a veggie burger with Heidi. Delicious. Oh, and I had a small Oreo shake because it sounded like a great treat after all the sweat and hard work. I had to beg the waitress to let me order a kid-sized shake, how sad is that? I told her I'd pay for the adult size but bring me the kid size. In the end she charged me the kid size, which of course was still huge.
|Angie and I sharing a smile.|
p.s. If you have any questions about backpacking or this trip feel free to send me a message either through my FB page or email (at the bottom of my FAQ page).